Johannesburg-based artist Sonny returned to New York City recently, exhibiting his first body of work on large-scale canvas and a series of hand painted sculptures in To The Bone. The artist is known for his passion for the protection of endangered wildlife, as he depicts those animals with unsure futures, close up, and stripped to the bone.
The exhibition marks the culmination of a world tour of mural painting in various cities around the world, including The Netherlands, Canada, Russia, USA, South Africa, UK, and others.
Best known for his enormous and exquisitely detailed spray-painted murals, Sonny has recently honed his painting skills to present a series of large-scale canvas pieces. In To the Bone, Sonny depicts a story of regression and destruction – an epic of nature and our heritage deteriorating under the twin pressures of civilization and expansionism.
Individual pieces portray an intimate portrait of an endangered species, a gorilla, a rhino, an elephant, a lion, a tiger, a panda, and so on. Half of each animal’s face has been stripped of flesh down to the bone, where the artist has meticulously decorated the skull with the patterns of tribes local to that species’ region.
To the Bone highlights the precarious balancing act that exists between mankind and the animal kingdom, a haunting reminder of how much we have lost and that we have yet to lose. Detached from the natural world, we tend to look upon wild animals with a sense of strangeness – always with a degree of separation between us and them.
This series forces us to question this thinking; by gazing into the animals’ eyes we’re made perhaps too keenly aware of our sameness. Depicted with golden horns and teeth, the imagery argues that the only value that these ‘keepsakes’ hold is as a part of a living animal.